Federal Court Jurisdiction Jurisdiction is defined as the authority of a court to hear (to try and to decide) a case. Article III, Section 2 of the Constitution provides that the federal courts may hear a case because of either: 1. the subject matter or 2. the parties involved in the case. Pg. 508
Appointment of Judges The power to appoint judges to federal courts falls on the President. The President nominates Supreme Court justices, as well as federal court judges, who are then subject to the approval of the Senate. Most federal judges are drawn from the ranks of leading attorneys, legal scholars and law school professors, former members of Congress, and State court judges.
Terms and Pay Judges appointed to the constitutional courts, including the Supreme Court, are appointed for life. Judges of constitutional courts may be removed only by their own will or through impeachment. Only 13 federal judges have ever been impeached, and, of them, seven were convicted. Judges who sit in the special courts are appointed for terms varying from 4 to 15 years. Congress determines salaries for federal judges.
Support Staff (Court Officers) Federal judges have many levels of support in order to fulfill their roles: United States magistrates are appointed by each federal district court judge to handle duties ranging from issuing warrants to setting bail in federal criminal cases. Each federal district judge appoints one bankruptcy judge for that district. The President nominates, and the Senate approves, a United States attorney for each federal judicial district. The President and the Senate also select a United States marshal to serve each of the district courts. Marshals act much like county sheriffs in regard to federal crimes.
Section 2:The Inferior Courts District Courts: The 94 federal judicial districts include at least one district in each State, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. District courts have original jurisdiction over most cases that are heard in federal courts. Pg. 513
Courts of Appeals The courts of appeals were created in 1891 to handle much of the burden that the Supreme Court faced in ruling on appealed cases.
Section 3: The Supreme Court Judicial Review: Judicial review refers to the power of a court to determine the constitutionality of a government action. The Supreme Court first asserted its power of judicial review in the case of Marbury v. Madison (1803). The Court’s decision laid the foundation for its involvement in the development of the American system of government.
Supreme Court Most cases heard by the Court are appeals cases. The Court hears only one to two cases in which it has original jurisdiction per year.
Supreme Court For a case to be heard by the Court, four of nine judges must agree that it should be placed on the Court’s docket.
How the Court Operates Oral Arguments Once the Supreme Court accepts a case, it sets a date on which lawyers on both sides will present oral arguments. Briefs Briefs are written documents filed with the Court before oral arguments begin. The Court in Conference The Chief Justice presides over a closed-door conference in which justices present their views on the case at hand.
Opinions of the Court Majority Opinion The majority opinion, formally called the Opinion of the Court, announces the Court’s decision in a case and its reasoning on which it is based. Precedents The majority opinions stand as precedents, or examples to be followed in similar cases as they arise in the lower courts or reach the Supreme Court. Concurring Opinions Concurring opinions are sometimes authored by justices to add or emphasize a point that was not made in the majority opinion. Dissenting Opinions Dissenting opinions are often written by those justices who do not agree with the Court's majority opinion
Section 4: The Special Courts The Court of Federal Claims The U.S. Court of Federal Claims handles all pleas against acts of the United States government. The Territorial Courts Under its power to govern the territories of the United States, Congress created courts for the nation’s territories.
Special Courts The District of Columbia Courts The District of Columbia Courts handle all local judicial matters for the district, including trials and appeals. The United States Tax Court The Tax Court hears civil but not criminal cases involving disputes over the application of the tax laws.
Special Courts The Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces This court is a civilian tribunal, a court operating as part of the judicial branch, entirely separate from the military establishment. The court reviews the more serious convictions of members of the armed forces at a court-martial, or trial involving military law.